One of my dearest friends has the type of job that is challenging and oh so rewarding. For a couple days a week, she runs a food pantry among the many other jobs she does. For years she would share stories of what her day was like and what she enjoyed about her job, as well as her stressors. She would also encourage me to come down, try it and possibly become a weekly volunteer.
Well, after 4+ years of sitting down as a retiree, I decided to give it a try. And let me tell you, it has been an experience. I only do it one afternoon a week but that afternoon is non stop moving from beginning to end. First of all the food given out is from the Feed America program, so there are many selections from all of the food groups. And what amazes me so much are the numbers of people seeking assistance to get them through the month.
I have found that working the Food Pantry is a rewarding, fulfilling experience for me. It makes me feel like I am giving back and making a difference. The best part is the conversations I have, though some are brief, with the people who come. While most are truly appreciative to get whatever help they can, there are a few salty ones with expectations and disappointment when they are limited in what they receive. That comes with almost any interaction you have with groups of people. We don’t take it personally.
As I help them unload their carts, I try to engage them in conversations about their day, their life and I call them sir and ma’m because there are many seniors in the group. I distinctly remember asking one younger man one day how he was, was he having a good day and could I help him load his box. He was surprised because he told me no one had ever walked up to him and offered to help him with anything directly. He didn’t know how to handle it. For a brief moment, he smiled and thanked me. I cannot tell you what that smile did for me.
Now the down side of working is unloading boxes off pallets at times, loading items on carts for distribution and bending over to help others unload their carts to keep the lines moving. That is quite a lot for this 65 year old to be doing some days. LOL! But going home with an achy body from helping others, feels far better than having an achy body from sitting for long periods with a remote in my hand. Get the idea?
I want to encourage you whether you are retired or not, carve out some time to volunteer somewhere an afternoon of your time or more. But give back somewhere. There are websites you can check out; countless organizations who need volunteers, or maybe you know someone personally, like me, who could use your help. But just do it. The reward you get back in helping others far exceeds the time you put into volunteering. And if you don’t care about the feel good experience part of it, do it because there is a need.